Today I went and saw the film “Cloud Atlas“. As I type this, it is approaching twelve hours since I saw it, and in another room of the house I can hear the strains of the Sextet playing — purchased shortly after arriving at a place with wifi.
If I recall correctly, the last film I saw in the theater was “Star Trek“, in 2009. Going to the movie theater for me has been a challenge and a cost that is too difficult to justify. Other than that one exception in ’09, I don’t think I’ve been in a theater in a decade.
The last time I was as excited for a film as I was for this one, the film was Fellowship of the Ring. Excited is decidedly the word for it, as well, in the lead up, and now the word is something more, something else, and even as I type this I find myself trying to reign in the cascade of emotions that is welling up as the memories strike, still fresh, still so wonderfully amazing, still so awesomely incredible.
Had I the capability, I would buy out an entire theater and let everyone I know go see it for free. It is that kind of amazing, that kind of awesome.
Prior to the LotR films, the last film I can think of that I was this keyed up for was something in the early 1990’s.
Because for all that I love film, when something becomes hyped, I fear a little. I seems as if inevitably I will find flaws, my watching of films impeded by the ways in which I sit through it, paying attention to the writing, to cinematography, to acting, to direction, to set design, to the thousand little things that all feed into the making a piece of art by committee, for Film is a group effort.
I think I’ve mentioned before here how I usually have to watch a film a few times, before I can just watch it for the joy of it.
I am entertained by movies. And I have a great many movies. I have only a few things in my collection that I would deign to call Films.
The Matrix, for example, to me is a movie. So are the LotR films.
Cloud Atlas is a Film.
I watched the trailers, finding myself intrigued by the beauty of Ang Lee’s “The Life of Pi”, and then settled back. I’d read the novel previously — and I have long passed the point where I expect duplications, and this adaptation has the blessing of the Author himself. It did, slightly, interfere with my watching the film. To expect a novel of the depth and complexity of Cloud Atlas to be mirrored on the screen is foolish, but inevitable, as many people will cling to the visions in their minds.
But Film is a different medium. Film is like working with expensive, rare oil paints. Novels and books are not like paint at all. They are more like sculpture, where you hack out and forge things.
In the end, though, writing a novel is like writing a novel, and making a Film is like making a film, and there are very good reasons for us to call them by separate things.
And the Film started, and I sat there.
And then it ended, and I didn’t want it to. I didn’t want to see credits rolling and have to start dealing with the world again, and I wasn’t ready to do it, wasn’t wanting to do it, wasn’t able to do it.
I was, then and now, enraptured. Entranced. A glamour was placed on me by this film, and after I staggered out into the parking lot and pulled out my phone and typed something, this is what I typed:
oh my god! The film is sep from the book, same stories, same scale, same sense of the elements.
It is an awesome, amazing film that is able to stand up against everything hyped about it for me.
There is a true exultation, and we as the audience gain it.
It was an hour before I could begin to face it more clearly, and what came out was this:
This won’t make much sense to a lot of people, but Cloud Atlas is Our Film. And there isn’t a trans person in the film. But truly, this is a movie that is as rich and complex and deeply moving as the lives of Trans people, and it carries forward with so many themes that it resonates soundly with transness in a way that it id challenging to describe.
It is a movie for those who love, and for those who are loved. It is a film for those who struggle, who wonder, who hope.
It is awesome, and if you haven’t started making plans to see it, then you really should start to do so now…
And that freed me to say the rest:
And not merely Trans, but that’s our lens. It is, without a doubt, a phenomenal film that speaks to the emotions, the yearnings, the triumphs and the defeats of our lives, in so many sparkling, brilliant ways, and leaves you breathless — not sad, but willing to cry, not joyous, but willing to triumph, and dare I say leaving you just a tiny bit unwilling to leave, unwilling to let go, because to stop is just not enough, and there is always more…
And I say that because Cloud Atlas, as a film, speaks more deeply to a different set of ideas, more clearly to a different set of emotions, more visually to a whole different way of seeing the themes in the book.
And in so doing, it stands on its own, separate from the novel, which, I will say again, I loved. I loved it from a writer’s standpoint, I was enthralled by the crafting of it, the details of it, the scope of it.
The film is a different beast, and it is not a wonder that the author embraces it.
The work I do is a holistic focus — we tackle many problems at once, and when I’m not busy asking people to donate 10 dollars a month to fund those efforts, we do one hell of a job at it. And we are only able to do all the stuff we do because we do all of it — this isn’t piecemeal, and we don’t reinvent the wheel, and this Film is like that.
Like a giant, massive Holistic look at life, the universe, and everything. It is a giant 42 plastered across the giant screen that it is so absolutely best seen on.
There is talk of an Oscar for this film, which by all accounts it is Lana who spearheaded it. It deserves at least one. The ambition in it is incredible.
Were I a critic, I would rate it 9 out of 10, and the only reason that it doesn’t get ten stars is that I read the damnable book first. Don’t do that. Watch the Film, then read the book. The book has so much more and is so deeply fascinating, but there are, as with any sort of crossing a boundary, differences between the Novel and the Film.
But I am not the only person who sees so much here.
I was never, ever bored by “Cloud Atlas.” On my second viewing, I gave up any attempt to work out the logical connections between the segments, stories and characters. What was important was that I set my mind free to play. Clouds do not really look like camels or sailing ships or castles in the sky. They are simply a natural process at work. So too, perhaps, are our lives. Because we have minds and clouds do not, we desire freedom. That is the shape the characters in “Cloud Atlas” take, and how they attempt to direct our thoughts. Any concrete, factual attempt to nail the film down to cold fact, to tell you what it “means,” is as pointless as trying to build a clockwork orange.
Yes, that Roger Ebert.
Of the reviews of Cloud Atlas that I’ve seen, the above captures the sense of the film best, I think. Especially in the use of the metaphor that guided the author.
There is so much to this film, that all I can say again is what I said when I came out.
There is an exultation in this film.
A yearning, a reaching, a struggle, a finding a passion that exists in this Film.
And it is the one that you get when you see it.